Twenty years ago I sat on a wooded hillside at the Washington County Fair and listened to country singer Lee Greenwood sing his classic “God Bless the USA.” I still get goose-bumps when I hear the song, and I can’t wait to “stand up” when he sings those passionate words on the stage of the Park Theatre on Friday, Nov. 1.
I spoke with Greenwood from his home in Nashville, where he lives with his wife of 21 years, a former Miss Tennessee, and two sons.
“I was born in 1942 in L.A., spent 20 years in Nevada, wrote and arranged all my own music, and then went through a divorce, spent some time trying to find myself, and did so when I met my wife on a USO tour,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. “God Bless the USA” was named Song of the Year in 1983, and an exhibit honoring the song and songwriter is displayed at the Hall of Fame. Other accolades include Male Vocalist of the Year from the Academy of Country Music, two Male Vocalist of the Year awards from the Country Music Association, and a Grammy for Top Male Vocal Performance in 1985 for “I.O.U.”
“Yes, they still stand up,” Lee said, “Not to honor me, but to honor our country. I wrote that song as a tribute to our country. I’m grateful that I did it right and it has been long-lasting.”
Greenwood’s new book, “Does God Bless the USA?” was published nine months ago.
“We’ve changed as a culture,” he said. “We’re still inventive and creative, but our moral makeup has changed. I’m still not over 9/11. Never will be.”
In addition to his new book, which deals with many of the challenges the USA faces today, Greenwood has released a new album, “I Want to Be in Your World,” a seven-song EP where he exposes his musical talent on the sax with “Here Comes Love, There Goes My Heart” and covers the Michael McDonald/
Kenny Loggins ballad, “You Can Let Go Now,” which features McDonald on the piano.
“I accompany myself on keyboards,” he said. “Actually, my main instrument is the saxophone. If I want some better piano work, I hire a pianist.”
Greenwood is looking forward to playing the historic Park Theatre. He remembers touring with Kenny Rogers “two or three times” in Rhode Island. He said he would be playing his hits at the Park, along with songs from his new CD.
Tickets at $35 and $45 are available for this sure sellout by calling the box office at 467-7275 or going online at www.parktheatreri.com. See you there. I’ll be “standing up next to you.”